EupleridaeMalagasy carnivores

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Diversity

The family Eupleridae, the Malagasy carnivores, consists of eight species and seven genera in two subfamilies. The diversity of form and function in this family is such that some have suggested it be split into several families. (Gaubert, et al., 2005; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)

Geographic Range

Species in the family Eupleridae are restricted to the island of Madagascar. (Nowak, 1999)

Habitat

Euplerids live in a variety of habitats, from humid forests, marshes, bogs, and swamps, to deserts and savannahs. (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

Physical Description

Aside from molecular synapomorphies, euplerids have few traits in common. They tend to have slender bodies with relatively small heads and pointed rostra, although fossas (Cryptoprocta ferox) are more cat-like in appearance, with blunt snouts. Head and body length ranges from 250 mm in Mungotictis and Salanoia to 800 mm in adult male Cryptoprocta. The thick, soft pelage is gray or brown, and spotted or striped in all but Eupleres and Cryptoprocta. The foot posture is plantigrade or digitigrade. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger

Reproduction

Mating systems in Eupleridae vary, as social structure varies from species to species. Fossas form monogamous pairs, while species in the genera Galidia, Mungotictis, and Salanoia are either found alone or in pairs, suggesting that they are monogamous within, but not across, breeding seasons. Species in the genera Eupleres and Galidictis live alone, in pairs, or in small family groups, which also might indicate monogamy. Mungotictis individuals live in small groups with several adults of each sex, but it is not known whether all of the adults within a group breed. Cryptoprocta individuals are strictly solitary, suggesting a polygynous or polygynandrous mating system. (Nowak, 1999)

Euplerids have definite breeding seasons, which vary by species and last anywhere from two to eight months. Gestation lasts around three months. Usually there are just one or two young per litter, though Cryptoprocta can have up to four. Weaning takes place between two and four and a half months. (Nowak, 1999)

Like all eutherian mammals, euplerid females nuture their young through a placenta until the young are born. They then provide their offspring with milk for two to four and a half months. Females of some genera, such as Cryptoprocta, select dens in which to bear and nurse their young. Mungotictis individuals live in family groups of several adults, juveniles, and young; thus, offspring have an association with their parents beyond weaning. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents

Lifespan/Longevity

Euplerid lifespans in the wild are unknown. Cryptoprocta holds the longevity record in captivity, at 20 years. (Nowak, 1999)

Behavior

Euplerids exhibit a range of lifestyles, from diurnal to nocturnal, and from arboreal to terrestrial. When they are not active, they shelter in protected spots, such as tree hollows, crevices, burrows, or caves. Locomotion is plantigrade or digitigrade. Mungotictis decemlineata have partially webbed toes and are good swimmers. As mentioned above, social habits range from strictly solitary to group living. Some species (Fossa and Cryptoprocta) vigorously defend territories against other pairs or individuals. (Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Like other carnivores, euplerids can perceive visual, acoustic, chemical, and tactile signals. Communication is through scent in the form of glandular secretions and through a variety of cries, groans, and other vocalizations. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Euplerids are primarily carnivorous, consuming small mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. Eupleres goudotii is specialized for eating intertebrates such as earthworms. Fossa fossana and Galidia elegans may include some fruit in their diets in addition to animal matter. (Nowak, 1999)

Predation

No information is available on the specific predators of euplerids, besides humans and domestic dogs, both of which are not native to Madagascar. Cryptic coloration in the form of spots and stripes on neutral backgrounds probably conceals most species well. Eupleres goudotii is known to either run or freeze when disturbed, and Cryptoprocta ferox releases a foul-smelling substance from its anal glands when it is alarmed. Large birds of prey or large snakes are potential predators. (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Euplerids that eat fruit are primary consumers, and all euplerids are secondary and higher-level consumers, because they eat a variety of animal matter. They, in turn, are eaten by humans and domestic dogs, and possibly other predators as well. Cryptoprocta ferox is the largest native predator on Madagascar and, except for humans, is at the top of the food chain. (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Euplerids are commonly hunted for their meat. (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Cryptoprocta ferox individuals sometimes attack poultry. There are no reports of other euplerids negatively affecting humans. (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

Conservation Status

All species in this family are threatened. Fossa fossana, Galidia elegans, Galidictis fasciata, and Salanoia concolor are considered vulnerable by the IUCN, and Cryptoprocta ferox, Eupleres goudotii, Galidictis grandidieri, and Mungotictis decemlineata are considered endangered. Cryptoprocta ferox, Eupleres goudotii, and Fossa fossana are on Appendix II of CITES. Habitat destruction in the form of deforestation is the main cause of their decline, though hunting by humans and predation by dogs also impact populations. (IUCN, 2006; Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, et al., 1989)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Allison Poor (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

semelparous

offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Doyère, P. 1835. Description d'un nouveau genre de mammifières carnassiers. Bulletin de la Société des Sciences Naturelles, 3: 45.

Gaubert, P., W. Wozencraft, P. Cordeiro-Estrela, G. Veron. 2005. Mosaics of convergences and noise in morphological phylogenies: What's in a viverrid-like carnivoran?. Systematic Biology, 54(6): 865-894.

Hemmer, H. 1978. The evolutionary systematics of living Felidae: Present status and current problems. Carnivore, 1: 71-79.

IUCN, 2006. "2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed September 19, 2006 at www.redlist.org.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Schreiber, A., R. Wirth, M. Riffel, H. Van Rompaey. 1989. Weasels, Civets, Mongooses, and their Relatives. An Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wozencraft, W. 1989. Classification of the recent Carnivora. Pp. 569-593 in J Gittleman, ed. Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Wozencraft, W. 2005. Order Carnivora. Pp. 532-628 in D Wilson, D Reeder, eds. Mammal Species of the World. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wozencraft, W. 1993. Order Carnivora. Pp. 279-348 in D Wilson, D Reeder, eds. Mammal Species of the World. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Yoder, A., M. Burns, S. Zehr, T. Delefosse, G. Veron, S. Goodman, J. Flynn. 2003. Single origin of Malagasy Carnivora from an African ancestor. Nature, 421: 734-737.